Health & Well-Being A-Z


women demonstrating Yoga

Yoga is an ancient practice from traditional Indian (Ayurvedic) medicine. It usually involves breathing and meditation exercises and physical body movements or postures.

Yoga is commonly used to improve general health, fitness, and quality of life. Some people also use yoga for stress, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

Is It Effective?

Effectiveness header

Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

Possibly effective
  • Asthma. Most research shows that yoga modestly improves symptoms and quality of life in patients with asthma.
  • Back pain. Most research shows that yoga can help relieve chronic low back pain. Experts recommend that people with low back pain try exercises such as yoga before they consider taking pain medication. But there's no evidence that yoga relieves low back pain better than other types of exercise.
  • Depression. Yoga might help lessen depression symptoms in the short term. Yoga seems to work best in people with mild or new onset depression. Some experts recommend that people with mild or moderate depression consider yoga or other meditative practices as a first- or second-line therapy for depression. Yoga also seems to help reduce depression during pregnancy, in elderly people, and in people with cancer or alcohol use disorder. But yoga doesn't seem to reduce depression symptoms better than usual care, group therapy, or social support groups.
  • Diabetes. There is some evidence that practicing yoga for 3 months improves blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Yoga also seems to slightly improve cholesterol, lower heart beat rate, and lower blood pressure in these people.
  • High blood pressure. Practicing yoga seems to modestly reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. But there is some evidence that other types of meditation might work better.
  • Symptoms of menopause. Most research shows that practicing yoga can help improve hot flashes, sleep, and other symptoms of menopause. Yoga seems to provide equal benefit compared with other exercise regimens.
  • Neck pain. Yoga seems to reduce neck pain when compared with certain other exercises. Yoga also seems to work as well as Pilates for reducing neck pain.
  • Stress. Practicing yoga seems to reduce stress and anxiety in people experiencing mild to moderate levels of stress. Yoga appears to work about as well as relaxation therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Tuberculosis. Some research shows that practicing yoga for 2 months can decrease symptoms, increase weight, improve lung function, and lower the bacterial count in people with TB.
Possibly ineffective
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS). Practicing yoga does not seem to improve quality of life or ability to move compared to usual care or exercise in people with multiple sclerosis. However yoga practice does seem to help with fatigue.

There is interest in using yoga for a number of other purposes, but there isn't enough reliable information to say whether it might be helpful.

Is it Safe?


Yoga is an ancient Indian practice and is an important part of traditional Indian or "Ayurvedic" medicine in India. Yoga uses several exercises including breathing, meditation, and body posture exercises. Many different styles of yoga exist that use a variety of techniques. The purpose of yoga is to achieve self-realization or enlightenment. Today it is also used for a variety of medical conditions and to maintain good health.

Like other forms of exercise and meditation, yoga appears to have several potentially beneficial effects. It can affect blood pressure, blood glucose levels, stress levels, and anxiety, and can affect brain chemicals related to mood.


Yoga is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when used appropriately. Like other forms of exercise, yoga might cause soreness in some people. In rare cases, hot yoga might cause heat stroke. Some reports have linked yoga exercises called "pranayam" and "Kapalabhati pranayama" to serious side effects involving the lungs. But these events are uncommon.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Yoga is POSSIBLY SAFE when used during pregnancy. There are some studies showing it doesn't harm the baby. However, some aggressive forms of yoga exercises might not be safe to use during pregnancy.

Children: Yoga is POSSIBLY SAFE when used appropriately by children under the supervision of a yoga teacher.

Abdominal surgery: There is concern that some aggressive breathing techniques, such as "Kapalabhati pranayama," might place too much pressure on the stomach area (abdomen) and harm people who have recently had abdominal surgery.

High blood pressure: There is concern that some aggressive breathing techniques, such as "Kapalabhati pranayama," might temporarily increase blood pressure and harm people with uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Eye lens implant: Sometimes a lens implant can move and cause rubbing and pain in the eye. There is concern that some positions in yoga might make this movement worse.

Drug interactions

It is not known if this treatment interacts with any medicines. Before using this treatment, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.

Herb interactions

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

Food interactions

There are no known interactions with foods.


The appropriate or safe use of yoga depends on several factors such as the condition being treated or the person administering the treatment. Be sure to seek and follow relevant directions from your physician or other healthcare professional before using this treatment.

Other names

Asana, Ashtanga Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Circular Yoga, Coiled Yoga, Creative Yoga, Dru Yoga, Exercice de Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Hot Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Jinana Yoga, Kirtan Kriya Yoga, Kripalu Yoga, Kundalini Yyoga, Laughter Yoga, Mediyoga, Power Yoga, Pranayama, Raja Yoga, Relaxation Yogique, Relaxing Yoga, Roya Yoga, RY, Sahaj Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, SKY, Sudarshana Kriya Yoga, Surya Namaskara, Tantra Yoga, Tibetan Yoga, Trataka Yoga, Viniyoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Yoga Bikram, Yoga Chaud, Yoga Exercise, Yoga Iyengar, Yoga Meditation, Yoga de Méditation, Yoga Practice, Yoga de Relaxation, Yoga Nidra, Yoga Tantrique, Yoga Therapy, Yoga Tibétain, Yoga of Awareness, Yoga Practice, Yogasana, Yogic Training.


Natural Medicines disclaims any responsibility related to medical consequences of using any medical product. Effort is made to ensure that the information contained in this monograph is accurate at the time it was published. Consumers and medical professionals who consult this monograph are cautioned that any medical or product related decision is the sole responsibility of the consumer and/or the health care professional. A legal License Agreement sets limitations on downloading, storing, or printing content from this Database. Except for any possible exceptions written into your License Agreement, no reproduction of this monograph or any content from this Database is permitted without written permission from the publisher. Unlawful to download, store, or distribute content from this site.

For the latest comprehensive data on this and every other natural medicine, health professionals should consult the Professional Version of the Natural Medicines. It is fully referenced and updated daily.

© Copyright 1995-2021. Therapeutic Research Faculty, publishers of Natural Medicines, Prescriber's Letter, and Pharmacist's Letter. All rights reserved.

Customer Service

KnoWEwell News Updates